14 January 2013

Mastermind, BookThree (The Entangled Series)

YAY!! It’s finally here, and my emotions are so mixed. The road was long. Four major military moves in seven years was tough (AK, AR, TN, WY). Throw in my husband’s numerous deployments, KIA death of an extended family member, passing of several loved ones, and my regular job, which includes teaching dance class and public performances, and you’ll have a glimpse of my journey leading up to the release of this book. The Entangled Series, in so many ways, saved me from going bananas. When life got crazy, when I felt lonely for friends and family, or when I needed somewhere to go to escape from reality, I turned to Mandy and Levi and the boys. Part of me now is sorry to see my creation (my happy place) come of age and part of me swells with indescribable satisfaction to see such a complex project reach completion. I cannot express my appreciation enough to my readers who stood by me, waiting (im)patiently for the conclusion to arrive at last and also to those people who offered kind words of encouragement, support, and assistance. I hope you enjoy your journey through The Entangled Series as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you like the series, tell others about it, visit the site where you purchased the book and leave a five-star review, and share with your friends. The louder you like it, the longer the team stays alive. Say hi to Dappo when you see him and check back here often for new releases. Talk to you soon! ox, DC

30 August 2011

How To Tackle Smashwords

To the newbie author: First of all, congrats on writing a book. Second, let me welcome you to the rapidly growing world of indie authors and commend you for having the courage to take on the do-it-yourself e-pub challenge. Below are a few tips to help you along the way.

Tip #1: Adjust your mindset. Think of Smashwords as a toolbox overflowing with gidgets and gadgets, all at your disposal. Whatever tool you need is inside. You may have to dig for it or learn how to use it, but it's there. At any roadblock, the support team is quick to assist and boot you in the right direction again. So relax, take a deep breath, and crack your knuckles. You have a long road ahead.

Tip #2: Follow instructions. If Smashwords has done anything, it's spend plenty of time simplifying the complex publishing process. Start by planning your metadata info, read the FAQ page, and make a copy of your manuscript. For obvious reasons, it is unwise to use your original as a formatting guinea pig. For subsequent books, you will likely find yourself arranging your page set-up in the Smashwords style before the first word is ever written. This makes publication a snap and the format-correction headache a distant memory.

Tip #3: Perfect your digital manuscript before you start. Read it silently, read it aloud, and then do a polish edit. Take the time to double check questionable grammar, eliminate passive voice, and spell-check. Once you've begun the formatting/publishing process, you will not want to be making spelling, grammatical, or content adjustments.

Tip #4: Use the Smashwords Style Guide. (See rule #2) Nothing spells fun like an entire evening redoing your format because you missed a step. On the bright side, the author of the guide has a fun personality and the book is actually entertaining. I felt like the instructor was talking directly to me, sooo I talked back during the entire process. It helped keep the mood light and the experience pleasant.

Tip #5: Prepare your market playground. Once you get through the meatgrinder and suffer the loooooong week-long wait to see if you made Premium Catalog, it's time to market. While Smashwords is busy distributing your book across the internet, you have time to create a professional looking author page, design a website, start a blog, open forums, join book clubs, and link up with Smashwords on facebook and twitter. Zero in on your target audience and show 'em what you've got.

Tip #6: Get involved. Smashwords is extremely interactive with their authors and encourages them to intermingle with each other, which is not easy for many writers (typically introverts). Even if it goes against the grain, stay proactive, stay visible, and learn internet marketing. Pay attention to Smashwords FB posts and always keep busy. I write at night, every night, and either I'm working on my next project or I'm marketing. Personally, I despise marketing but LOVE the results. So the time investment is worth it.

Tip #7: Protect your fans. Of all the advice you'll receive, this is the most critical. You've neglected your family, spent a fortune in supplies, invested time and research, and busted your tail editing, publishing, and marketing your work for one thing: READERS. Whether you've earned one die-hard fan or a thousand, it's your job to maintain a healthy relationship. People work hard for their money--remember that when you ask for it. People's time and attention are worth a fortune; just note the cost of advertisement. Every ad, every business, and every other author is vying for just a piece of someone's attention--respect what you get. Don't squander it.

Tip #8: Maintain a professional public profile. Readers have high expectations for their authors and expect professionalism, even in the face of adversary. They don't care if you're an indie or traditional author, and they're not interested in the business nonsense--only you are. To them, it's about the product. In exchange for all your hard work, they've given time, money, and reviews. Don't let them down.

As of this writing, I've published two ebooks from The Entangled Series at Smashwords. It's a happy union, far nicer than the paperback arena and far more author friendly. All I have to do now is become an extroverted marketing master and I'll be well on my way. My success is entirely up to me. I will say this, there is no feeling in the world that compares to standing in the presence of a starstruck fan or walking into the dentist office and being surrounded by a staff of avid readers asking for autographs or to have a stranger hurry and catch up so she can touch 'a real author'. To achieve even one of those moments is the definition of success and is enough to keep any author plugging away for the next bestseller. If that means taking the extra time to follow instructions and get it right, then I'll do my part and let Smashwords do the rest.    ox, D.C. Sargent

Valuable Links

Publish Instructions
Smashwords Style Guide
FAQ Page
Ebook Terminology
Marketing Guide
Smashwords FB Forum
Site Updates

22 August 2011

If I Could Spend A Week With ??? I Would Do It In A Heartbeat!

If I could have anything I wanted, it wouldn’t be a bunch of stuff on sale at half-price, shiny toys, or expensive cliche` vacations. The inner workings of my mind operate on a much different level. I want material—anything that will spark my imagination. My perfect vacation wouldn’t be a luxury cruise, it would be a week with:

A special force unit/black op team. Not for the classified, political, or shooty bloody stuff, but more for the camaraderie, the bond, the lifestyle, mindset, lingo, and point of view. It would be good exercise, too, and oh! the stories they could tell! Of course, this couldn’t be in some base or other civilized structure. I want the real deal! The field! I’m talking wearing soap on the way in and flies on the way out, training and wargames, stories of reckless insanity around a campfire, tasteless MREs, dune buggies, mosquito repellant, shovels.

A ghost. I would love to see our world from a totally different perspective as well as view people without their masks on. What better way than to move freely between this dimension and the hereafter wearing nothing but a shimmer? My problem would be the temptations. I can see it now: Some person has no idea I’m standing there and I have to make a choice—mischievous poltergeist or a guiding light. Hmm! Eenie, meenie, miney, BOO! I will say this, I hope they have books in the hereafter, because I’ll be busy when I get there—with or without the tour.

A warlord. Yuck! Are you serious, D.C.? Yep. Just so I could get into his head, decipher his distorted thinking and try to make sense out of it. What motivates a person to actively defy civilization, absorb power, and turn into a mindless politi . . . er, criminal. Is there any happiness in that tiny heart, any capacity to love, or true pleasure to be found in drawing forth misery from the innocent? Or does he exist in a cold, dark, lonely void in a desperate search for some nameless thing to fill the chasm? This inquiring mind wants to know.

A spy. How cool would that be? I’ve been told that the life of a spy is NOTHING like we see in the movies and I agree—James Bond and Mission Impossible do have the slight flavor of Hollywood. I don’t mean gadget watches with scaffolding hooks and emergency laser beams, and I’m also not talking about boring moles who work for years to reach an inner circle just to plant a single bug only to get whacked by the agency because he knew too much and developed a guilty conscious. Not him. I’m talking about the CIA airplane to nowhere with a crew of nobody taking a plane full of nothing to a place that doesn’t exist. THAT spy!

Ninja assassins. OMG! I could so totally use that! Throwing stars and, oh! some insane housewife tries to take the last box of cereal. I’d be like waaaaaaaaaaa yah!

A comedian. Brian Regan, Bill Engvall, or Jeff Foxworthy—any one of those. What fun!

Violinist David Garrett. I could listen to that all day long.

My mind is whirring now!

Tibetan monks, or, um … under the sea with a mermaid (the tail would take some getting used to), or a week in the company of a genie (preferably out of the bottle), on a submarine. ooh! with the gods on Mount Olympus. I could steal Cupid’s arrow …

ox, d.c.

16 August 2011

A Scene is Born

questions from the readers: How do you create a scene?

Well … that depends on the scene. Sometimes it’s just a matter of reading the previous draft, bringing the heart rate up, and following a detailed outline. Other times—not so easy. Take the fight scenes, for instance. if you’ve never thrown a punch in your life, writing a detailed fight scene can be a very … inaccurate? … experience. So, I started sniffing around the martial arts world. Mere interviews wouldn’t do. I had to learn it myself. Problem was, there’s more than one style of fighting—self-defense, attack, ground—and I had plenty of characters (all of them) who had to know how to do it. So I signed up for kenpo karate, krav maga, and brazilian ju-jitsu. A few black eyes and some bruises later, I was writing away and Levi looked like a pro!

All those detailed scenes in the cargo plane? Yep! The Air Force calls it Spouse Day. I call it real-time research. I wasn’t fooling around! While the other wives were socializing, sleeping, vomiting, I was busily scrawling intimate details into a pilfered notepad with the general’s pen. I went home and wrote the scene in Entangled with Mandy in the cargo plane before Kiser so rudely throws her out. The scene  in The Devil’s Garden with the team on the flight deck wondering what the hell’s wrong with the airplane came from an invitation to my husband’s flight simulator training. To the benefit of my readers, we had a laid-back pilot who didn’t mind if I took the simulator plane for a whirl. The rest of the crew wasn’t in a hurry, sooo … I got the copilot seat! I’ve tried to secure a few minutes in the co-pilot seat on a real cargo plane, but to date the Air Force isn’t cooperating. For the record—I never did get airsick. I wear this tidbit like a badge of honor.

The Carson in the tropical pool scene: Ah, yes. Mandy with the eyes of an over-ripe potato. To her embarrassment and to our delight—yes, she did see Carson naked! [Fanning self] You probably noticed, this scene has the distinct flavor of a romance novel. What? You say. D.C.? Writing romance! I know, I know, it sounds crazy. So how did I do it? Easy. I consulted the romance expert—my sister/first-line beta reader. Like a big girl teaching a crying toddler to walk, she babied me through it. That includes kissing scenes, tender moments, and all those powerful looks. When you see love anywhere in The Entangled Series, thank Celeste.

My nephew—an artillery ground pounder visiting family between deployments—made the mistake of reminiscing about boot camp and a horrible drill sergeant in front of me. My brain snapped to Raul in The Devil’s Garden and my ears perked right up. The unsuspecting soldier starts explaining what it means to ‘get smoked’ in the military. Oh, happy day! Next thing my nephew knows, he’s demonstrating in detail each one (about six total), which included names like The Monkey F**er and Little Man in the Woods, while I sat on the floor taking notes on a notepad. His pitiful cries of ‘can't you write any faster?’ and ‘gimme a minute [pant, pant] to catch my breath’ and ‘I shouldn’t have said anything’ fell on deaf ears. By the time he stomped out of my house, I had pages of descriptions. I’m pleased to announce, The Little Man in the Woods made it into the final cut. This is a prime example of our fine military supporting its American authors. Thanks, John!

Alas, not all my research is pleasant. Some of it TOTALLY sucks! Fender and the spiders: internet at midnight—instant heeby-jeeby protocol (hair in a bun, fly swatter, and potent bug spray). Levi and the coconut grubs: the Discovery Channel on an empty stomach! Blegh! ox, dc

17 May 2011

the devil's garden (excerpt)

     Chucho made a sudden move, clearly intending to retrieve his weapon, and startled Mandy. She jumped and fired, placing the bullet in the floor two inches from his crotch.
     Chucho grabbed his treasured anatomy and fell back, clapping his knees together with a vile curse.
     "Oh!" gasped Mandy, dropping wide eyes to her smoking gun. "So that’s a hair trigger!" she thought.
     Levi cursed sharply and struggled to regain control of Paco. "Yes, it’s a hair trigger!" he snapped. "There’s no way we’d get out with your aim, Female. Where’d you learn how to shoot?"
     She gave him a quick dirty look. "Guatemala. In the rain," she retorted, then returned her attention to Dappo.
     Several more soldiers ran into the room.
     Mandy jerked the pistol toward them in surprise and it fired again, splitting the doorjamb beside the lead soldier’s head. He skidded to a stop, wide-eyed, jolting as the others bumped into him. Simultaneously, they raised their hands.
     Her mouth rounded into an O. "Oops!"
    "WILL . . . you be careful!" Levi snapped silently, bulging his eyes in irritation. "Take your damn finger off the trigger!"
    "It’s my left hand," she argued, steadying her aim at the soldiers against the wall.
     They cringed.
     Dappo’s eyes moved to the bullet hole in the door and then to his goon sitting with his knees together on the floor. "I must say, Mandy, your aim is impressive."
     Levi’s mouth popped open. "Impress—are you serious?"
     "Tell me what to do, Levi."
     "We’re outnumbered. There’s nothing we can do. They’re gonna kill me and keep you."
     "That’s not acceptable," she said out loud. "I’m telling him."
     Levi frowned. "About the telepathy?"
     "Yes, if that’s what it takes."
     "Oh, no you won’t!"
     "Tell me what?" Dappo asked.
     "Nothing!" they snapped in unison.

11 August 2010

You %$#@ Jody!

Questions from the readers:

Levi calls Kiser a Jody. What the devil is a Jody?

A Jody is every military man's worst fear. The name refers to a soldier who sleeps with other men's wives/girlfriends while they are gone on a mission, deployed, or TDY. He's good-looking, muscular, has all his hair, drives an awesome car, and is very well endowed---a feature he doesn't waste.

How can you spot Jody?

Jody is the one standing, er . . . laughing, on the edge of the runway with champagne, Kleenex, and chocolate while a unit deploys to Timbuktu.

Do the absent soldiers know Jody?

If they have friends, co-workers, live on a base, or have ever laid eyes on another soldier, er . . . man, they do.

Does Jody refer only to men?

[Hysterical laughter] Um, no.

So being called a Jody is a bad thing, right?

That depends. Did your unit just deploy without you?

What happens when someone is called a Jody?

The typical reaction is back-slapping, hand-smacking appreciation for being labeled so pleasantly by one's acquaintances. Thanks all around and drinks on the house!

Wait! Is being called Jody an insult or is it a complement?

Yes.

Where is Jody now?

If you have to ask, you're not him.

So, uh, when exactly do you expect your man to return?

You %$#@ Jody!

03 June 2010

Imagine This!

The title of the book ENTANGLED actually comes from the phenomenon of the same name according to quantum physics. The mechanics of this, of course, would take a scholar to explain. I do not claim to be a scholar by any stretch. In fact, I've spent many looong nights researching the subject only to wake the next morning with my laptop askew, some drool, and absolute lack of comprehension regarding anything to do with quantum physics. I do, however, know a quantum physicist personally and, therefore, feel I am qualified enough not only to write a book on the subject, but also to conduct an experiment---on you.

Take a moment to slip into Mandy and Levi's world. Try to imagine what it would be like for one day to have someone you've never met hearing your every thought---all of them, even the embarrassing ones. Imagine going through that same day being bombarded by the private thoughts of someone else. No lies, no secrets. At this point, you may include frustration.

Scholars believe entanglement such as this would drive you crazy. I find the idea intriguing. It would be noisy at first, but eventually it would be tolerable. During the experiment, please, please do not speak aloud, giggle incessantly, babble, and/or argue alone publicly or you may find yourself the center of unwanted attention.

Warning---schizophrenia can produce delusions that the sufferer is in telepathic communication with others; such delusions include thought broadcasting and thought extraction. This is dangerously close to what we're dealing with here. I urge caution.

Try next to imagine how hard it would be to perform simple tasks such as counting money while the other is dialing a phone number, or read an article while the other is singing in the shower. Imagine blurting someone else's conversation in the middle of your own. How might your life be disrupted? What if you didn't get along? Would you keep this a secret? How do you look in a straight jacket?

What would you do? xo, dc

24 May 2010

Action, Action, Action!

I discovered quite early in my writing career that I like action, and lots of it. In order to write about all this fun action, I felt it was my duty to learn what I was talking about so that my characters could act it out for you in an entertaining, yet believable, fashion. The first thing I did was join a kenpo karate class. I got a few belts in (brown), and viola! Levi was fighting like a pro. Of course he's a little better at it than I am, but that's because I expect nothing less from him. Kiser uses more of a taekwondo technique (though I didn't actually study that). He likes to kick. This is a bad thing if you happen to be the object of his attention when he does this. Anyway, if that doesn't work for him there's always the 9mm beretta. I needed a different fighting style for Jose who joins the story later in the series. His style is more krav maga---very high energy style. Anyone fighting on the ground in my story is using brazilian ju jitsu which is an awesome workout by the way. Others use basic boxing. I didn't do much boxing.

Carson, as you know, is my knife thrower. I did learn to do this, though I probably should admit I never mastered this art. I am decidedly more dangerous than Carson when throwing. This is because you never know where my knives will land. Did you know throwing knifes bounce off a wooden target? I didn't. I nearly impaled myself. This little detail landed in ENTANGLED in the locker room scene. I'll leave the knife throwing to carson for now. 

The airplane ride, for those of you who like aircraft, was actually a C-130. I had the opportunity on several occasions to fly on these. While everyone else was sleeping, talking, vomiting, etc., I was busy taking notes (if you happened to be on one of those Alaskan flights with me, I was the one with the silly smile, tiny notepad, and the general's ink pen). Later in the series, we visit the team's pilot Matt on the flight deck. How am I able to describe a C-130 in flight? I actually got to fly a C-130! And how did i manage that? C-130 training simulator! Yeah, baby! The military is awesome, isn't it? Oh, the toys they have! Not to mention some really awesome people. I successfully took off---actually, I almost crashed the plane on take off---flew around the city, and then landed safely after only missing the runway once. I did not take notes in the simulator, for those of you who might wonder. I did that on the car ride home. Oh, and I never vomited either.

The commandos. No matter how hard I tried, I wasn't able to get my notepad within range of a real Navy SEAL, but I did spend quite some time studying their training techniques, behavior, mannerisms, and fun banter. I learned about Army Rangers, found absolutely nothing on Delta Force, and bumped into an actual Marine Recon commando in a store on base, which was really neat. Of course, I wanted all the juicy details of these organizations, yet I was pretty certain none of these groups would cooperate with me regarding such a request. So, I created my own civilian commando unit and shaped them into an awesome team. Then, like a bonehead, I made them all fluent in Spanish. I didn't know Spanish! You know what that means. I'm not fluent yet. I'm still learning. I really must be more careful when I write.

You know what else I did without thinking? I had Kiser and Mandy jump out of a C-130! Yes, I did. This was a bad idea. You see, by now I've developed a reputation. If I write it, that means I've researched it, tried it myself, or at least made a darn good effort to understand it---up to this point anyway. No way was I going to jump out of an airplane. Ever! Story or no story, it wasn't going to happen. The military has jump simulators. I'm still working on this. One of these days---late, of course---I will get into the jump simulator, but I'm not jumping from a real one. You can forget it. That's right folks, D.C. Sargent chickened out. I really, really must be more careful when I write. xo, dc

13 May 2010

Character Auditions

Fair warning disclaimer---if you frequent the planet Earth and happen to cross paths with me, you have just auditioned to become one of my characters. Below is a list of how it works.

**If you catch me staring, you have just become a potential selectee---please do not be offended. You may not be placed right away, but I've stored you in my data files for later use.

**If I follow you please do not be alarmed. I am not stalking you, you are simply an instant winner. Stay tuned for new book releases, let me know when you recognize yourself.

**If you are without class, rude, a bad driver, or otherwise unpleasant you have just become an expendable character. I make examples of these folks, and they are usually the first to die.

**Intelligent potentials are held in very high esteem, especially when one also has a good sense of humor. This wit is tweeked, meticulously paired with the appropriate existing character, altered to fit a scenario, and then becomes dialog. Voila! How cool is that?

**If you're funny, you're probably going in. Personality is everything!

**My villan Dappo, believe it or not, originally came from yours truly. I don't blow stuff up, of course, but I wish I could have his temperment AND get away with it. I mean, we've all met that one person whose neck you'd just like to . . . hmm. How do I explain? Well, he gets to do all those things I've always kinda wished . . . maybe I shouldn't be writing this.

I appologize. my halo slipped. okay, where was i?

**In ENTANGLED, most of my characters were taken from my fellow militarians. if you were on a military base when I got/lived there, guess what! Read the book, let me know if you recognize yourself (including Mandy).

**In honor of our fallen soldiers, two of my static characters in ENTANGLED were actually chosen from the casualty list I frequent so often. Their names have been changed, of course, but at least a small part of these two heros lives on. A third KIA is alive and well in the second (unreleased) book in the series THE DEVIL'S GARDEN, and a fourth KIA hero has been selected and will soon awaken in the third book which I am currently writing. Auditions for this W.I.P. are ongoing.

So there you have it. That's how it's done. I do not personally know the majority of the volunteers in my books (actually, I only know two), but from the bottom of my heart . . . thank you. ox, dc

28 April 2010

Beginnings

Okay, okay, I've been properly convinced. I'm starting a blog. I'll begin with the history of ENTANGLED. It all began one dark, stormy night...

I'm teasing. actually, I had a bad dream. I woke up in the middle of the night positive someone had just spoken right into my ear. Scared the bad word out of me! I guess I must have been sleeping pretty hard, because it took a minute for me to realize there was no one in the room. Then, it occured to me that the voice had happened in my head. The very idea of being mentally locked with some strange man was horrifying, even though I knew it had only been a dream. By that evening, bizarre scenarios were building. I settled on the one involving strong, bad-ass commandos, of which I'm terribly fond by the way, and I ran with it. ENTANGLED was actually written about three times from front to back. The first time, the story was reeealy corny. I didn't have a clue how to write other than silly short stories I'd written as a child. I had to learn how to do it. All internet baby! Those websites at 3:am. The second time, I had to start researching my commandos in order to bring them to life. I'm a military wife and lived on an airforce/army base surrounded by them. Voila! oh, and SEAL documentaries, escape evasion books, interviews with special forces, aviators, etc. then---here's the hardest part---I had to learn to think like a man! Wow. That was a challenge. I had to draw a difinitive line between male and female and then crash the two together. Did you know men don't say 'yuck'? I had to learn this. Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as interviewing a man and asking him 'What are you thinking?' quite the opposite! The amused responses to that question often led to very high eyebrows, wide eyes, and pink cheeks. So, armed with this new knowledge, I cleared my throat and got creative. So I had to get creative. For the record, men and women think very, very differently. The third and final time I wrote the story, I actually had awesome characters, months of research, my own new quirky writing style, and a farfetched goal in mind. So far, so good . . . xo, dc